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Elul Is Our Warm Up                                                                                                                               By Valerie Popkin

We designate the month of Elul as our period of preparation prior to the Days of Awe. Our tradition teaches us to read specific psalms, to blow the shofar each day, to pay attention, as Rosh Hashanah will be here soon. 

We take time off from work. We make plans with family about who will be hosting dinner.   We inspect our clothing, and our cutlery. Does my tallis need cleaning, is the tablecloth free of wine stains?  Although these are tasks on our holiday checklist, accomplishing them doesn’t really bring us any closer to truly being prepared for the Days of Awe.

Who shall live and who shall die?  Do we really believe that a long day in shul will be the determining factor for G-d’s decree?  Is it possible to truly repent over the course of ten days?  Of course not. Our tradition is steeped with the imperative of living with moral integrity and performing acts of social justice and kindness every day.  Our actions count all year long.  Shouldn’t repentance be a part of our daily existence? So why is Elul set aside as a special time?

Elul is our month of spiritual preparation. It is our opportunity to look inward and evaluate ourselves. It is our chance at a reset. It is our opportunity to acknowledge that we are human and we will make mistakes, but we are also able to assess our actions with the hope of not repeating the misguided ones in the year to come. Our tradition acknowledges our human-ness and gives us second chances. 

Elul is our warm up. It is the month when we acknowledge the spark of G-d that is in all of us, and our desire to feed and nurture that spark. It is the final lap of our returning to our innate goodness and purpose, on our way to accepting the opportunity and the responsibility to stand together on Rosh Hashanah and begin again. 

Let’s use this period of preparation purposely and wisely. Let’s dig deep and remind ourselves what is important to us as individuals and as a community. We can then gather on Rosh Hashanah with renewed enthusiasm and a better understanding of what Teshuvah really is and can be. We can then recite the Unetaneh Tokef together, with a more sincere connection to the true meaning of these Days of Awe. 

Tue, May 28 2024 20 Iyyar 5784